Right after Friday night's game, the Marlins made a few minor bullpen-related promotions and one major shift in the pen's roles. Manager Ozzie Guillen has shifted Heath Bell out of the closer role temporarily, and because the bullpen has been so taxed by multiple extra innings games as of late, the Fish optioned Bryan Petersen and Dan Jennings and promoted minor leaguers Chris Hatcher and Sandy Rosario.
Bell's temporary removal from the closer spot represents a very fast hook for a player who was initially acquired to run the closer's role. Bell's performance has been poor no matter how you look at it, and his latest blown save against San Diego was enough to convince Ozzie Guillen to move him to the sixth or seventh inning while he works out his potential problems. But do not mistake this for a permanent demotion; as soon as Bell is back on track, Guillen will reinstate him in the position.
This is a good move for the Marlins, if only because it lets them tinker with Bell outside of high-leverage innings. If there were only one or two problems, such as his BABIP (.400) or his strikeout rate (11.3 percent), these would be workable within the confines of the ninth inning, especially given that, at that point, we would not be sure if anything is wrong with him. But with all of his statistics down and by such a large degree, it is difficult to imagine Bell does not have something physically wrong with him.
"We're going to move him down for a few days to get him back on track," Guillen said Saturday afternoon. "It's not like we're removing him from his job. I made it clear to him that if we're going to be the club we should be, it's easier for him to be where he's supposed to be."
For now, the Fish will turn to Steve Cishek, who has performed well thus far this season. In a little more than one season with the Fish, Cishek has shown all the signs of an elite reliever: he strikes out hitters (career 24.4 percent rate) and induces whiffs (career 9.0 percent swinging strike rate), gets a lot of ground balls (career 55.8 percent rate), and does not walk a whole lot of hitters (career 8.7 percent rate). We may not know if Cishek is fully ready for a future job as a top reliever, but at this point there is no sense in giving him the high-leverage situations with him pitching so well.
As for the minor moves, as mentioned before, they are merely depth moves to get the Marlins extra relievers during a difficult time. Neither Chris Hatcher nor Sandy Rosario figures to be an important piece to the 2012 bullpen puzzle. Hatcher is a recently converted catcher who has a live arm and 63 minor league innings under his wings. In his short 2011 stint, he threw a 94 mph fastball and decent secondary offerings, but he pitched poorly overall. Marc Hulet of FanGraphs figured he could be a seventh or eighth inning piece in the future, but not at the moment. Rosario was a closer in the minors, but he spent a good deal of time in High-A Greensboro before finally getting a promotion to Double-A and the big leagues. He has average stuff, so it is unlikely he will amount to much, just like Hatcher.
The most disappointing part of this move is that Bryan Petersen has to return to the minors after a short stint in the big leagues. We mentioned that Petersen was deserving of a spot in the major league roster after a commendable performance last season, but the Marlins opted for veteran Austin Kearns and Chris Coghlan for the backup outfield spots. With the bullpen struggling to a degree, Guillen has said that the 13-man pitching staff may stick for a while, meaning we may not see Petersen back in the big leagues until that situation is settled. Once again, the Marlins block off Petersen and Scott Cousins from a potential major league path.